Winter or early spring might not seem like the best time for a North Carolina beach trip since it’s clearly not peak season, but that’s exactly why these months are the best time to hit I-40 and head to the Port City. With less folks traveling that way, traffic will be smooth sailing. Plus, everything is still open for business, with fewer crowds and shorter wait times.

Leave your swimwear at home and dive into a few of Wilmington’s top spots.

Eat

Every great weekend away from home must include yummy eats, and since Wilmington is a haven for foodies, it’s time to challenge your taste buds and try something new. A hidden hideaway tempting tourists with the flavors and tastes of the South Pacific, Kat 5 Kava (123 Grace St.) is always worth a visit. In addition to tasty menu items, the restaurant specializes in kava, a cold beverage made out of mashed kava roots. The drink is popular in Fiji and other South Pacific Islands.

Winston-Salem business owner and resident, Melanie Vaughn, recommends Hurricane Alley’s (5 Boardwalk) at Carolina Beach. This oceanside restaurant is known for its rooftop deck and ocean views.

“It is simply the best for amazing food, and it’s right on the beach so it provides the perfect beach ambiance,” she says.

This hot spot is locally owned, and will reopen from renovations on March 14, 2020.

Play

With over 200 miles to explore, the Cape Fear river is best seen from the decks of a river boat cruise. I had the pleasure of attending one on New Year’s Eve by Cape Fear Riverboats and it was tons of fun. The food, views, and music were all top-notch. It’s the perfect activity for all ages, and guests don’t have to worry about the sweltering heat this time of year.

Wrightsville and Carolina beaches are both just outside of Wilmington, and while it will definitely be cold; both make for a fun stop or stay while visiting the area. Wrightsville Beach actually has its own dining options: Bluewater Grill (4 Marina St.) and Oceanic Restaurant at the Crystal Pier (703 S. Lumina Ave.), both of which are musts. Bluewater Grill is known for its waterfront views and live music. Meanwhile, Oceanic offers fresh seafood and outdoor dining on the rebuilt historic Crystal Pier which was built in 1939 and originally named The Mira Mar..

Enjoy

One of the more enjoyable parts of escaping the day-to-day is a lazy morning, so coffee lovers will rejoice during Wilmington’s annual Coffee Fest. Taking place in February every year, this “coffee crawl” will sample the best caffeine there is in the Port City. Attendees can expect demonstrations, samples, lectures, and more.

Seeing as so many television shows and movies, such as “Dawson’s Creek,” “Iron Man 3,” “One Tree Hill,” and “A Walk to Remember” were filmed in Wilmington, it’s no surprise many film festivals take place in this town. An international film festival takes place this month, and female filmmakers will be celebrated in March.

From sandy beaches and lulling waves to mouth-watering restaurants and exciting festivals, there is something for all ages and interests in Wilmington. Is the Port City calling your name yet?

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